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10:09 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Outgoing Economic Development director enthusiastic about plan

KINGMAN - With seeming disregard for City Council's elimination of his department two weeks ago and another vote this week to cut his severance package, outgoing Economic Development Director Jeff Weir spoke with pride, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment when he presented the Economic Development Strategic Plan Monday night.

The tone of his speech wasn't what one would expect from a man who will be leaving the job come June 30. But the energy and conviction with which he spoke of the months of hard work from community members indicated that he was looking past Council's recent actions.

It's been six months since he pulled together business leaders, city staff and residents concerned about Kingman's economic prospects to develop the plan. The plan as presented, he said, is a consensus from all members on what Kingman will need for a sustainable economy.

Some of the items outlined include goals for business recruitment, affordable housing development, cooperation with other government agencies and even a branding campaign for the city.

"We all know about Route 66, but we don't know about all the other amenities," he said Monday.

"There are many, many positive things in this community, and they need to be identified and a plan put forth so that we can go out to the rest of the world and let them know who we are."

Perhaps viewing the completion of the report as his legacy for Kingman, Weir asked at the conclusion of the meeting that Council implement the plan before the end of the fiscal year.

"It is one of the best strategic plans I've had the opportunity to help prepare and bring forth for anybody," he told Council. "This plan has more emphasis on action to be taken than any other strategic plan that I've prepared."

The 22-page document outlines the current economic status of Kingman, identifies strengths and weaknesses and recommends the creation of several committees to address focus areas in the future.

One of the initiatives calls for a property tax to fund existing and future city services.

"There's a group of people that represent businesses and numbers in the community ... (who) absolutely support implementation of a primary property tax.

"We need it for our own benefit as a community so we have a sustainable funding source," he said. Weir proposed addressing this in November alongside the $46 million in bonds on the ballot.

Anther significant item of discussion was the perceived problem of affordable housing.

"It absolutely deals directly to the heart of the ability to continue to offer people hope, an opportunity to sit here and opportunity to be a part of this community in the way that they should be," Weir said.

The new plan calls for a Quality of Living Committee that will meet with residents to address issues, make recommendations to Council and assist with development of "specific action plans."

Other initiatives called for attention to a preparation plan for future job opportunities, a plan for annexation policies, an effort toward maintaining Kingman as the government center of Mohave County and a marketing plan "that produces successful business recruitment results."

Copies of the plan can be obtained at the city complex, 310 N. Fourth St.

Several people spoke following Weir's presentation, reiterating the need to implement the report and some showing support for Weir and an economic development department.

Kathy Taylor, a resident, registered voter and Realtor, expressed concern for the future without someone watching the economy.

"We need to be proactive, not reactive," she said.

Five years ago Kingman didn't have an economic development director or impact fees, she said, and the city had "missed the boat."

"Kingman's going to grow whether we want it to or not; we don't have a choice in the matter," she said. "I'm just hoping that you will look at the strategic plan and think about the future of Kingman and think what is your plan B ... now that we don't' have an economic development department."

Mohave Engineering Associates President Peter Proffit said he was very pleased to be a part of the committee that created the strategic plan.

"As long as I've been in Kingman, been involved, this is the best effort that I've seen towards building a trust of the people that live here and the people that have a stake in what's going on. And I think this report reflects that."

Proffit encouraged Council to approve the report, as many residents put in a lot of effort and personal time to produce it.

Last but not least, Kingman Regional Medical Center Public Relations Director Jamie Taylor praised the work of the committee and encouraged continued focus on the growth-related issues facing Kingman.

"I think in the past we've had a tendency of kind of an ostrich syndrome, where if I put my head in the sand and don't look at it, it won't happen. And then, unfortunately, it's happened anyway," she said, referring to the population boom in recent years.

She said her husband predicted in 1998 that at some point Kingman would be discovered, and it was, she said.

"We need to get in front of that growth. We need to plan for it," she said.

"We are a valuable community. We can ask our developers to help support our infrastructure. We need to get them involved in our planning, and we need to use the strategic plan to look to the future.

"We have a lot of things to offer. We need this vision for the future, where we will be 10 years, 20 years, 40 years from now, and this strategic plan addresses this need," she said.

Council took no action on the report, but Weir asked that members review it and provide feedback before implementation at the June 18 meeting.